May/June 2004
Carmelite Ponderings: Tolerance of Diversity in Marian Devotion

Sr. Rosmarie Cameron, O.C.D.

When I came to enter this Order I immediately found that our Lady had a most singular place in the Order as a whole, as well as in the personal devotion of the other nuns. I first discovered this, and could actually sense the reason why when I discovered the sisters' love for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Through the story of the apparitions of Mary at Tepeyac, and especially in the way the nuns told it, I discovered Mary to be a woman bearing Christ in a newborn nation of Christians. Mary was a woman who recognized and upheld the dignity and importance of the most humble and simplest of persons. Mary was a woman who assumed an attitude of prayer, who came to comfort and assure those who were persecuted that she would look after their needs - and above all else, that in her care, she was their Mother.

Marian devotions and experiences, places of Marian pilgrimage and prayer began to be for me something to be respected, not tossed aside as outdated tales. I learned much as I listened to what others felt, saw, and tried to understand about Mary. Some of what others found have not been part of my experience, but I saw in their attitude the deep personal effects of what they discovered. How can one make negative judgments, or keep from encouraging them in their desire to find her as companion and guide; to walk in faith towards her who is always striving to let us all find that she is present on our journey towards God? I sense a need to be gently attentive to the experiences of others. Following Christ and respecting humanity, loving the Church more because the fruits of an experience of Mary, and living the virtues associated with friendship with our Lady, calls a person of faith to respect, not offer great explanations as to what is lacking in another person's experience. As long as the Church does not make a statement against what is experienced, or done, or where one may travel in their search and devotion, I find myself standing in wonder at the mercies of God manifested in such varied and personal ways. Mary as Mother has many avenues in which to encounter her children and carry them to truth - as much as her children differ, so she relates to them where she finds them. She best knows her Son's heart and how to bring each of us into conformity to that heart. Her presence in our lives accompanies us and is the model that best teaches us how to give Him love in truth.

In defining the life of a Discalced Carmelite Nun our Constitution clearly states: "By choosing the Blessed Virgin Mary as mother and patroness, the Order places itself under her protection; and it takes the mystery of her life and of her union with Christ as its ideal model of consecration." Though this is the life of Carmelites, it is in reality an invitation to every follower of Christ. Carmelites strive to live this ideal in such a way that all can see how real such a relationship is and encourage others to find Mary as a model and companion in their friendship with Christ. Pondering the Scriptures, placing oneself in the situations she found herself in, is a great help in getting to know her and following the example she is for us all. Take just a few moments from time to time to do this and you will find grace, light, and comfort in all that the Lord places in your life. Most of all Mary will show you how you can find Christ there. Never forget, she knows Jesus best. She knows His secret desires and she is ready to show us how to find Him, be present, and pleasing to Him. She will help us "catch His eye", and grow intimately, deeply in loving and being loved by Him.

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